About 4,000 California companies — including Pacific Gas & Electric and the Hearst Corp. — farms and others are allowed to use free water while the rest of the state is required to conserve water during California’s historic drought, the Associated Press reports.
This “senior rights holder” status is due to century-old claims. While no one knows how much water these corporations and agricultural operations use, it amounts to trillions of gallons each year, the AP says. There is little oversight because the state’s outdated system is based on self-reported, incomplete records.
California’s drought could cost Central Valley farms and irrigated agriculture $1.7 billion and some 14,500 jobs this year, according to a study by the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences.